Americans with Disabilities Act

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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a revolutionary piece of legislation designed to protect the civil rights of people who have physical and mental disabilities, in a manner similar to that in which previous civil rights laws have protected people of various races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. The ADA mandates changes in the way that both private businesses and the government conduct business to ensure that all Americans have full access to and can fully participate in every aspect of society. The ADA requires the removal of barriers that deny individuals with disabilities equal opportunity and access to jobs, public accommodations, government services, public transportation, and telecommunications. The law applies to small companies as well as to large ones, so small business owners must be aware of its provisions and how they affect their companies' employment practices, facilities, and products. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency charged with enforcing the various aspects of the ADA.

It is estimated that 50 million Americans, or one out of every five, have a disability. As defined in the ADA, the term "disability" applies to three categories of individuals: 1) people who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; 2) people who have a record of an impairment which substantially limits major life activities; and 3) people who may be regarded by others as having such an impairment. For an employee or job applicant to be protected by the ADA, an individual must be "disabled" in one or more of the above manners, be "otherwise qualified" for the position, and be able to perform the essential functions of the job, "with or without accommodation."

PROVISIONS OF THE ADA

President George H. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990. The legal structure of the ADA is based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The ADA uses concepts of disability, accessibility, and employment which were introduced in the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These two federal laws were the predecessors of the ADA that mandated a level of accessibility in federally funded buildings and programs. The ADA expanded the requirements of accessibility to the new and existing facilities of privately funded companies for the first time.

The ADA consists of five separate parts or titles: Title I relates to employment; Title II concerns public services; Title III pertains to public accommodations and commercial facilities; Title IV refers to telecommunications; and Title V covers miscellaneous other items.

Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination in employment against qualified individuals with disabilities. For companies with 25 or more employees, the requirements became effective on July 26, 1992. For employers with between 15 and 24 workers, the requirements became effective on July 26, 1994.

Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination in programs, services, or activities of public entities (state and local governments), including public transportation operated by public entities. The provisions of Title II which do not involve public transportation became effective on January 26, 1992.

Title III, pertaining to public accommodations and commercial facilities, requires that private businesses that are places of "public accommodation"including restaurants, health clubs, department stores, convenience stores and specialty shops, and hotels and motelsallow individuals with disabilities to participate equally in the goods and services that they offer. This title also requires that all future construction of commercial facilitiesincluding office buildings, factories, and warehousesand places of public accommodation be constructed so that the building is accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Title III also mandates modifications in policies, practices, and procedures. Commercial businesses and places of public accommodation are required to provide auxiliary aids and services, and to make accessible transportation available when transportation services are offered. In addition, companies are required to remove architectural and communications barriers and to comply with ADA in any ongoing or new construction. The Act stipulates that all fixed-route or on-demand transportation servicessuch as hotel-to-airport and other shuttle servicesbe accessible to persons in wheelchairs and other disabled individuals.

Title IV of the ADA requires telephone companies to make relay services available for persons with hearing and speech impairments.

Title V ties the ADA to the Civil Rights Act of 1974 and its amendments. It includes a variety of miscellaneous legal and technical provisions, including one that stipulates that the ADA does not override or limit the remedies, rights, or procedures of any federal, state, or local law which provides greater or equal protection for the rights of individuals with disabilities.

The ADA draws an important distinction between the terms "reasonable accommodations" and "readily achievable." For small businesses and other employers, no modifications to their facilities must be undertaken to fulfill the requirements of the ADA until a qualified individual with a disability has been hired. At that point, "reasonable accommodations" must be made unless they impose a significant difficulty or expense. In contrast, the terminology "readily achievable" refers to business obligations to clients or guests and applies to actions that can be accomplished without much difficulty or expense. "Readily achievable" modifications must be made in anticipation of a disabled guest's or client's needs, before he or she ever arrives on the premises.

Compliance with the various provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act also lies with both landlord and tenant, so either or both parties may be held legally liable for violations of the ADA. Assignation of ADA responsibilities is generally made via the lease agreement. Small business owners who lease their office space or other place of business, then, should examine these agreements closely.

THE ADA AND THE MENTALLY DISABLED

The fastest-growing area of legal activity relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act concerns mentally disabled employees. Claims that businesses failed to accommodate their employees' psychological problems according to the provisions of the ADA grew rapidly in the late 1990s but stabilized in the early years of the 2000s at around 13 to 14 percent of all ADA claims received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Under the original language of the ADA, the Act applied a higher standard for legal redress to individuals whose disabilities stemmed from "any mental or psychological disorder." But legislative efforts to eliminate this higher standard have intensified in recent years.

Problems associated with mentally disabled employees may include workplace socialization difficulties, limited stamina, irregular attendance, difficulty dealing with stress or criticism, and limited attention spans. But many experts in both the mental health and business fields insist that the mentally disabled can be valuable additions to the workforce if companies provide appropriate accommodations.

One valuable tool that business owners and managers can utilize in establishing and maintaining a productive work environment for mentally disabled employees is the EEOC Enforcement Guidance, a comprehensive legal guidebook issued in 1997. As Business Horizons points out, the Guidance stipulates that "traits or behaviors are not, in themselves, mental impairments. This means that stress does not automatically indicate a mental impairment, although it may be a symptom. Similarly, such traits as irritability, chronic lateness, and poor judgement are not, in themselves, mental impairments, although they may be linked to them." Legitimate mental disabilities do, however, include major depression, bipolar disorder, various anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, mental retardation, and special learning disorders.

Under the ADA, companies employing mentally disabled individuals are not responsible for every aspect of the employees' behavior. For instance, they are not required to relieve employees of work responsibilities or excuse them from violations of established work policies. Nor are they required to employ workers who are deemed a safety threat. Moreover, employers are not legally responsible for mental disabilities of which they are unaware.

But employers are required under ADA law to make "reasonable accommodations" for mentally disabled employees. These may include leaves of absence; minor modifications in work policy, supervision, or job position; or flexible work schedules. "Although the nature or form of accommodation is up to the employer, and is only 'reasonable' if it helps the employee do a better job, in some instances the employer might wish to consider professional assistance in the communication process," wrote Robert Schwartz, Frederick Post, and Jack Simonetti in Business Horizons. "Managers should also verify that the condition qualifies as a psychiatric disability and whether the person can perform the job's essential functions with or without accommodation. Management can request reasonable documentation from a health care professional about the disability and the need for accommodations."

Compliance with the ADA's mental disability provisions can help companies retain productive employees and protect themselves from legal peril. But "even beyond mere compliance, socially responsible businesses may elect to embrace these legal mandates as changes that advance the common good of society," noted Schwartz, Post, and Simonetti. "By doing so, they would be helping millions of mentally ill citizens become gainfully employed and saving society billions of government dollars spent supporting the presently unemployed mentally ill."

THE ADA IN PRACTICE

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990, its provisions, enforcement measures, and effectiveness have all come under scrutiny. Supporters have credited the ADA with improving the quality of life of millions of disabled citizens and opening new economic opportunities for disabled workers across the nation. In addition, C.C. Sullivan noted in Building Design and Construction that "the landmark civil rights law changed the way U.S. businesses and institutions understand the rights and abilities of disabled citizens." But Sullivan also voiced a common lament among business owners and managers that "the ADA's open-ended, murky language has been a decade-long minefield of confusion and litigation." Indeed, even supporters of the Act admit that efforts to clarify various provisions of the ADAnow underwayare needed to reduce litigation.

Critics of the ADAin its current incarnation at leastalso note that employment among people with disabilities was lower in the late 1990s, a period of great economic expansion in the United States, than it was when it was passed in 1990. Measuring unemployment is a difficult task in the best of conditions. Measuring the unemployment rate for disabled people is more difficult yet. People often stop looking for employment after an extended and unsuccessful search. The act of giving up on job searching removes a person from the roles of the unemployed. The most recent data available on the unemployment rate for disabled people dates back to 2000 when, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the rate at which disabled Americans were unemployed stood at approximately 30 percent, more than six times higher than the nation's overall unemployment rate.

Some observers attribute these high rates of unemployment, a decade after the ADA passed, to lax ADA compliance and enforcement efforts by federal agencies charged with seeing that the Act's provisions are carried out. Another factor contributing to the seemingly negligible impact of the ADA on employment rates for disabled people has to do with demographics. As the large baby boom generation ages, many of its members are dropping out of the workforce before the age of retirement. Of these, a very large percentage is departing the workforce based on disability, according to a 2004 Congressional Budget Office report on the subject entitled Disability and Retirement: The Early Exit of Baby Boomers from the Labor Force.

Whatever difficulties exist in tracking and measuring the benefits that the ADA has had on increasing accessibility for disabled Americans, attention has been drawn to the subject of disability in American. Across the society, efforts to comply with the law are being made, in the private sector as well as the public sector, by small organizations as well as large. As time passes and data are collected, more analysis of how effective efforts have been to more thoroughly integrate disabled Americans into all aspects of social life will be possible.

see also Disabled Customers

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Colker, Ruth Disability Pendulum. NYU Press, May 2005.

DeLeire, Thomas. "The Unintended Consequences of the Americans with Disabilities Act." Regulation. Winter 2000.

"Finding Mediation for ADA Disputes." Dallas Business Journal. 8 September 2000.

Hofius, Julie. "Guidelines Define Discrimination Against the Disabled." Tampa Bay Business Journal. 8 September 2000.

Holtz-Eakin, Douglas. Disability and Retirement: The Early Exit of Baby Boomers from the Labor Force. November 2004.

Leonard, Bill. "New Report Criticizes ADA Enforcement Efforts." HRMagazine. September 2000.

National Council on Disability. Promises to Keep: A Decade of Federal Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 2000.

"Navigating the ADA and Disability Maze." HR Focus. July 2000.

Office on the Americans with Disabilities Act.U.S. Department of Justice. Civil Rights Division. The Americans with Disabilities Act-Title II Technical Assistance Manual. n.d.

Schwartz, Robert H. et. al. "The ADA and the Mentally Disabled: What Must Firms Do?" Business Horizons. July 2000.

"Special Report ADA: The Case for Unlimited Access." Market Event. 15 June 2005.

Sullivan, C.C. "ADA's Contentious Decade." Building Design and Construction. September 2000.

"Work for All." T&D. January 2003.

                                Hillstrom, Northern Lights

                                 updated by Magee, ECDI

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Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

americans with Disabilities act (1990)

Ruth Colker


ADA Title I provides that: No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

ADA Title II provides that: [N]o qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.

ADA Title III provides that: No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.

The term disability is defined as: (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; (b) a record of such an impairment; or (c) being regarded as having such an impairment.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (P.L. 108-23), enacted by Congress in 1990, forbids discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The act consists of three major provisions, called "titles": Title I prohibits discrimination in public or private employment; Title II prohibits discrimination at public entities (like public universities or hospitals); and Title III prohibits discrimination at places of public accommodation (like hotels and restaurants). The ADA extended existing prohibitions against discrimination entities that receive federal financial assistance, like public parks, to private entities like privately owned recreational facilities.

In general, the statute prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. In order to be qualified, an individual must be able to engage in the activity in question with "reasonable accommodation." A reasonable accommodation might be a modification in a rule or procedure, or the provision of an auxiliary aid. Whether an accommodation is "reasonable" will rest, in part, on whether it is unduly expensive. Which accommodations are reasonable varies throughout the statute, depending on whether one is suing under Titles I, II, or III. Not all individuals with disabilities, however, require accommodations to engage in programs or activities. Often, they simply need an entity to provide nondiscriminatory treatment by, for example, ending their ban on participation by individuals with disabilities.

The statute also provides various "defenses," or grounds on which a person or entity can legally discriminate against an individual with a disability. One of the most important defenses is the "direct threat" defense. An employer can refrain from hiring an individual not merely because the individual might cause harm to others but because the individual may cause harm to him- or herself through the employment in question. For example, in 2002 the Supreme Court ruled in Chevron v. Echabazal that the employer could refrain from employing a person out of concern that working conditions would exacerbate his liver disease.

CONSTITUTIONAL BASIS FOR THE ACT

The constitutional basis for the ADA is the commerce clause authority given to Congress, as well as its authority under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Under section 5, Congress has the authority to enact legislation to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection or due process clause. However, Supreme Court rulings in the years after ADA was enacted challenged the act's constitutionality under both the commerce clause and section 5. In 2001 the Supreme Court ruled in Board of Trustees v. Garrett that Congress could not constitutionally create a private right of action for monetary damages against the state involving employment discrimination under ADA Title I. In other words, a private individual could not bring an employment discrimination action in federal court for back pay or damages due to disability discrimination by the state. Numerous lower courts have extended that holding to ADA Title II, ruling more broadly that Congress does not have the authority to create a private right of action against the states to remedy disability discrimination in the nonemployment context. It is expected that the Supreme Court will ultimately resolve this issue.

Even if the Supreme Court eventually rules that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to create a private right of action against the states to remedy disability discrimination, the United States Department of Justice can still enforce the ADA against the states. Sovereign immunity principles protect the state from suit by private individuals. However, these principles do not apply when the federal government sues the state on behalf of an aggrieved individual (an individual with a claim of discrimination). Moreover, private rights of action may still be maintained against private defendants and against local governments.

LEGISLATIVE DEBATE AND COMPROMISE

The ADA grew out of different roots from those of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The National Council on the Handicapped, a panel of thirteen people appointed by President Ronald Reagan, proposed the first version of the ADA in 1988. This version, which offered more protections for people with disabilities than the enacted version, was largely ignored when Senator Lowell Weicker, a Republican from Connecticut, introduced it in the closing days of the 100th Congress.

In the early days of the George H. W. Bush administration, the bill was cut back to make it more acceptable to the business community. Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, and Representative Tony Coelho, a Democrat from California, were the chief sponsors of the new version of the ADA, which had been worked out through compromise between the act's supporters and detractors. Some disabilities rights advocates worried that proponents of the ADA gave away too much during compromise negotiations. The bill contained the following revisions:

  • It required modifications of existing structures to accommodate people with disabilities only if these changes could be easily achieved at reasonable expense.
  • It eliminated damages for cases involving public accommodations; private individuals could only seek injunctive relief when they were excluded from public accommodations due to barrier access problems.
  • It did not require television broadcasters to make their programs accessible to persons with impaired hearing.
  • The original bill included an "undue hardship" exception to the requirement that reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services be provided for persons with disabilities. This version of the bill made it easier to claim this undue hardship exception.

The compromise bill eventually became law in the summer of 1990 in an overwhelming bipartisan vote in both the House and Senate.

One reason for the bill's strong support was that many members of Congress had personal or family reasons for being concerned about disability issues. Other key figures in passage of the act were Attorney General Richard Thornburgh; Senator Robert Dole, a Republican from Kansas; and Senator Ted Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts. The major public interest advocates for the ADA were the Disability Rights Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union.

THE ACT'S PRECURSORS

The historical roots of the ADA lie in section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which creates protection against disability discrimination in programs receiving "federal financial assistance." The ADA is modeled on the basic framework used in section 504, including its definition of an individual with a disability. Congress held extensive hearings before enacting the ADA, and key committees wrote extensive reports on the act before it was adopted. The Supreme Court has not relied on that background material in interpreting the act. However, it has sought to interpret the ADA consistently with previous cases argued under section 504.

Another important precursor of the ADA was the Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988. These amendments extended some of section 504's protections to the private sector by prohibiting discrimination in housing on the basis of disability. It was not until the passage of the ADA in 1990, however, that the private sector began to be broadly covered under federal law by a requirement of nondiscrimination in housing as well as employment.

EXPERIENCE UNDER THE ACT

In the first decade of enforcement of the ADA, many legal cases focused on the definition of an "individual with a disability." The ADA is different from most other civil rights laws in that a person must belong to a protected category to receive legal protection from it. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by contrast, both males and females can bring claims of sex discrimination, just as both whites and blacks can bring claims of race discrimination. Under the ADA, only individuals who qualify as "individuals with a disability" can bring claims of discrimination. An important defense strategy has been to argue that the plaintiff is not "disabled" according to the ADA's definition, and therefore does not have a cause of action. When that strategy is successful, the court does not even reach the question of whether unlawful discrimination occurred.

Sutton v. United Air Lines. In the 1999 case Sutton v. United Air Lines, the Supreme Court interpreted the definition of disability narrowly. The plaintiffs in Sutton sued under Title I, arguing that they had been the victims of unlawful employment discrimination when they failed the vision test required by United Air Lines to work as a commercial pilot. The Court did not come to the question of whether the discrimination they faced was unlawful (or permitted by one of the statute's defenses). Instead, it found that the plaintiffs could not bring an ADA lawsuit because they were not individuals with a disability as defined by the act.

The plaintiffs' uncorrected visual acuity (in other words, sharpness of vision without corrective lenses) was 20/200 or worse in one eye and 20/400 or worse in the other eye. With corrective lenses, their vision was 20/20 or better. The legal question in the case was whether a court should determine the disability status of individuals in their corrected or uncorrected state. The Supreme Court held that "disability under the Act is to be determined with reference to corrective measures." In simpler terms, when wearing glasses or contact lenses the individuals were not disabled. Therefore the plaintiffs had not stated a claim that they were disabled even though United Air Lines had required them to take the vision test without the use of corrective lenses. This interpretation of the ADA has prevented individuals from obtaining protection under the statute if they have an impairment that can be corrected, in part, through some means. Individuals with hearing impairments, diabetes, high blood pressure, and psychological impairments have been found not to be disabled under this narrow standard.

The Importance of Voluntary Compliance. In ADA litigation, particularly in employment discrimination cases, the winners have overwhelmingly been the defendants. Nonetheless, a glance at many public accommodations like hotels, restaurants, and recreational facilities suggests that the ADA has been effective in heightening public awareness of disability issues and encouraging voluntary compliance. Curb cuts, areas where sidewalks dip down to be level with the street to allow easy passage for wheelchairs, or other mechanisms that aid the disabled were virtually unheard of a decade ago and are now seen in most major cities. The most important factor in the act's success in its first decade seems to be voluntary compliance rather than litigation.

RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER LAWS

The ADA is not the only federal statute to prohibit disability discrimination. Until passage of the ADA, the strongest legislation to protect people with disabilities was probably the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (formerly known as the Education of All Handicapped Children Act). This civil rights statute guarantees that each child with a disability can have an "individualized education plan" so that he or she can receive a "free appropriate public education."

Other statutes preceding the ADA include the Developmental Disabilities Bill of Rights Act of 1975, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984, sections 501 and 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988.

See also: Civil Rights act of 1964; Fair Housing act of 1968; individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Colker, Ruth. "The Americans with Disabilities Act: A Windfall for Defendants." Harvard Civil RightsCivil Liberties Law Review 99 (1999).

Colker, Ruth, and Bonnie Poitras Tucker. The Law of Disability Discrimination, 3d ed. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing, 2000.

O'Brien, Ruth. Crippled Justice: The History of Modern Disability Policy in the Workplace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Sections 501 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Ruth Colker

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act creates protection against disability discrimination in programs receiving "federal financial assistance" and prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of disability. Section 501 prohibits federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service from dis criminating on the basis of disability.

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Americans with Disabilities Act

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

Many older persons fall within the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was enacted by Congress as Public Law no. 101-336 on 26 July 1990 and signed by President George Bush, becoming effective in 1992. This legislation was intended primarily to expand to almost the entire public and private sectors the requirements regarding rights to employment, services, and public accommodations for disabled individuals which previously were imposed by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 only on federal contractors. Specifically, Congress in 1990 stated the purpose of the ADA as follows:

  1. to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
  2. to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
  3. to ensure that the federal government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in this Act on behalf of individuals with disabilities.

The ADA is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. Departments of Justice and Transportation, and civil lawsuits brought by individuals who have suffered unlawful discrimination. The court costs and attorneys' fees of prevailing plaintiffs must be paid by defendants found guilty of discrimination. No entity may retaliate against an individual for filing a claim under the ADA. In addition, most states have adopted a state counterpart to the federal ADA, enforceable through state agencies and in state courts.

Aging certainly does not automatically equal disability, and vice versa. Indeed, age by itself cannot qualify as a disability under the ADA. Nonetheless, more adults than ever before are either developing disabilities in their later years or aging through life with disabilities. The likelihood of disability demonstrably increases with age.

Employment discrimination

Title I of the ADA prohibits private (both for-profit and not-for-profit) and public (i.e., government) employers with twenty-five or more employees from discriminating "against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment."

Unlike the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), passed by Congress in 1967, which only requires equal treatment for older workers (defined as persons at least forty years old), the ADA imposes affirmative obligations on employers regarding employment of the disabled. Specifically, the ADA defines unlawful discrimination to include the following:

  1. (A) not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless [the employer] can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of [the employer]; or
  2. (B) denying employment opportunities to a job applicant or employee who is an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, if such denial is based on the need [of the employer] to make reasonable accommodation to the physical or mental impairments of the employer or applicant.

The ADA protects persons with a disability, which means, with respect to an individual:

  1. (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;
  2. (B) a record [i.e., a history] of such an impairment; or
  3. (C) being regarded [by others] as having such an impairment.

Many older persons ought to qualify as persons with a disability so defined.

Discrimination in public services and accommodations

Older individuals who qualify as persons with disabilities are also protected by Titles II and III of the ADA. These titles relate, respectively, to discrimination by public and private entities.

Title II. Title II provides that "[N]o qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity [defined as any department or agency of a state or local government], or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." Banned discrimination might take the form of formal or informal barriers in the application process to obtain benefits (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security), including unnecessarily complex application forms, inaccessible application sites, and long waiting times for appointments; reductions in public benefits and services; and undue intrusions into the disabled person's choices about services. "Qualified individual with a disability" is defined as "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity."

A major U.S. Supreme Court decision interpreted Title II of the ADA in 1999. In the case of Olmstead v. L.C. (119 S.Ct. 2176), the state of Georgia was sued by two women whose disabilities included mental retardation and mental illness. Both women lived in state-owned and -operated institutions, despite the fact that the professionals who were treating them had determined that they could be appropriately served in a community setting. The plaintiffs claimed that their continued institutionalization was a violation of their right under the ADA, to live "in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities." The Supreme Court found that "unjustified isolation. . . is properly regarded as discrimination based on disability." The Court majority opinion observed that "institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable and unworthy of participating in community life," and "confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment."

Under Olmstead, states are now required to provide community-based services for persons with disabilities who would otherwise be entitled to institutional services when (1) the state's treatment professionals reasonably determine that community placement is appropriate; (2) the affected persons do not oppose community placement; and (3) community placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the state and the needs of others who are receiving state-supported disability services. The Court firmly cautioned, however, that nothing in the ADA condones termination of institutional settings (such as nursing homes or state mental institutions) for persons unable to handle or benefit from community service services.

Moreover, the state's responsibility, once it provides community-based services to qualified persons with disabilities, is not unlimited. Under the ADA, states are obligated to "make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity." The Supreme Court indicated that the test as to whether a modification entails "fundamental alteration" of a program takes into account three factors: (1) the cost of providing services to the individual in the most integrated setting appropriate; (2) the resources available to the state; and (3) how the provision of services affects the state's ability to meet the needs of others with disabilities. According to the Court, a state can establish compliance with Title II of the ADA if it demonstrates that it has (1) a comprehensive, effectively working plan for placing qualified persons with disabilities in less restrictive settings and (2) a waiting list that moves at a reasonable pace not controlled by the state's endeavors to keep its institutions fully populated.

Title III. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination by public accommodations: "(a) No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation."

The following private entities (both for-profit and not-for-profit) are considered public accommodations: places of lodging; establishments serving food or drink (e.g., restaurants); places of exhibition or entertainment; places of public gathering; sales or rental establishments; service establishments (including professional offices of attorneys and health care providers, as well as health care institutions); stations used for public transportation; places of public display or collection; places of education; social service center establishments; and places of exercise or recreation. Moreover, "No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of specified public transportation services provided by a private entity that is primarily engaged in the business of transporting people. . ."

Title III imposes affirmative obligations on private entities. It requires places of public accommodation to do the following:

  1. (ii) make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when such modifications are necessary to afford [covered] goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless such entity can demonstrate that making such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations;
  2. (iii) take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated otherwise. . . treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services, unless the entity can demonstrate that taking such steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation being offered or would result in an undue burden;
  3. (iv) remove architectural barriers, and communication barriers that are structural in nature, in existing facilities, and transportation barriers in existing vehicles and rail passenger cars used by an establishment for transporting individuals. . .[New construction and alterations in public accommodations are also covered.];
  4. (v) where an entity can demonstrate that the removal of a barrier under clause (iv) is not readily achievable, [the entity must] make such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations available through alternative methods if such methods are readily achievable.

One important limitation on the reach of Title III is that religious organizations are specifically excluded from coverage. Thus, there is no federal requirement that religious and social activities associated with places of worship be accessible to persons with disabilities.

Conclusion

Many questions relating to the eventual impact of the ADA on older persons, both individually and as a group, remain and await clarification through further regulatory and judicial interpretation in particular cases. It is certain, though, that the ADA provides broad, needed civil rights protections for older Americans with mental and physical disabilities in respect to programs sponsored or funded by state and local governments and to public accommodations provided by private enterprises.

Marshall B. Kapp

See also Disability.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

American Bar Association, Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law. Mental Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: ABA, 1997.

Ansello, E. F., and Eustis, N. N., guest eds. "Aging and Disabilities: Seeking Common Ground." Generations 16 (1992): 399.

Colker, R., and Tucker, B. P. The Law of Disability Discrimination, 2d ed. Cincinnati, Ohio: Anderson, 1998.

Gostin, L. O., and Beyer, H. A. Implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act: Rights and Responsibilities of All Americans. Baltimore: Brookes, 1993.

Gottlich, V. "Protection for Nursing Facility Residents Under the ADA." Generations 18 (1994): 4347

Rothstein, L. F. Disabilities and the Law, 2d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group, 1997.

Tucker, B. P. Federal Disability Law, 2d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group, 1998. West, J., ed. The Americans with Disabilities Act: From Policy to Practice. New York: Milbank Memorial Fund, 1991.

ANDROGENS

See Andropause; Menopause

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Americans with Disabilities Act

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) was passed in 1990 when Congress determined that the estimated 43 million disabled persons in the United States were a "minority … subjected to a history of purposeful unequal treatment." The ADA prohibited private employers from disability-based discrimination if an individual could do a job's "essential functions" with or without "reasonable accommodations." The act also mandated accessibility and reasonable accommodations and prohibited disability-based discrimination in state and local government services, public transit, telecommunications, and public places (restaurants, stores, theaters, private schools, hospitals, and other entities offering the public goods and services). The ADA allowed exemptions if compliance would cause "undue hardship" because of excessive cost. Because the act imported a tripartite definition of disability from the Rehabilitation Act without also adopting the existing agency regulations that explicated that definition, the scope of ADA coverage remains un-clear. Since 1998 the Supreme Court has decided an increasing number of cases under the act, many of which focus on the question of who is "disabled" under the ADA. Despite these rulings being limited to individual claimants, the court has curbed the scope of the ADA by holding that mitigating measures used to ameliorate functional limitations (for example, medication) also mitigate eligibility for disability status under the act. At the same time, the court has not yet articulated a standard for measuring the reasonableness of an accommodation.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Burgdorf, R. L., Jr. "The Americans with Disabilities Act: Analysis and Implications of a Second-Generation Civil Rights Statute." Harvard Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Law Review 26 (summer 1991): 413–522.

Paul K.Longmore

MichaelStein

See alsoDisability Rights Movement .

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Americans with Disabilities Act

Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. civil-rights law, enacted 1990, that forbids discrimination of various sorts against persons with physical or mental handicaps. Its primary emphasis is on enabling these persons to enter the job market and remain employed, but it also outlaws most physical barriers in public accommodations, transportation, telecommunications, and government services. Among the protected class are persons with AIDS and substance abusers who are in treatment. Some 50 million current or potential workers are estimated to be covered by the law's provisions. Studies suggest that the number of disabled persons entering the workforce has not improved significantly, and that a contributing factor may be their reluctance to lose (e.g., because personal income would exceed statutory maximums) other benefits available to them on the basis of their disabilities. The act has already been much litigated. In 1999, for instance, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that correctable conditions like eyesight requiring the use of glasses do not qualify as disabilities under the act, and a 2002 decision established that a disability must limit a person's ability to perform tasks of central importance not just in the workplace but in daily life. In response to some interpretations of the act that narrowed its enforcement, Congress enacted amendments in 2008 that were designed to make the law more inclusive.

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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a revolutionary piece of civil rights legislation. The law is designed to protect the civil rights of people who have physical and mental disabilities, in a manner similar to the way that previous civil rights laws have protected people who are of various races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. The ADA mandates changes in the way that both private businesses and the government conduct employment practices and provide products and services to the general public to ensure that all Americans have full access to, and can fully participate in, all aspects of society. It was the first federal law that required privately-financed businesses to provide physical accessibility in existing buildings. The ADA requires the removal of barriers that deny individuals with disabilities equal opportunity and access to jobs, public accommodations, government services, public transportation, and telecommunications. On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the ADA into law. The legal structure of the ADA is based on those of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and much of its wording is taken directly from these earlier Acts.

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Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

U.S. federal legislation (PL 101-336; 42 U.S.C. 12101) enacted in 1990 and designed to prohibit certain forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

In 1990, approximately 40 million Americans could be classified as having one or more physical or mental disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted to legally address the widespread and serious social problem of discrimination against these individuals in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, public service, and other areas. In addition to establishing enforceable standards in reference to discrimination against individuals with disabilities and ensuring that the federal government enforces those standards, the intent of this legislation was to provide a clear national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities and to allow these individuals into the economic and social mainstream of American life.

See also Disability

Further Reading

Bowe, Frank. Equal Rights for Americans with Disabilities. New York: Franklin Watts, 1992.

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Americans with Disabilities Act

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which went into effect in 1992, attempts to end discrimination practices against persons with physical or mental impairments. At times, disabled people experience difficulties when job hunting, not because they cannot do a particular job but because prospective employers assume that they cannot. Assistive computer technology has opened many new avenues for the disabled, making once difficult tasks now easily achievable.

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